CIA Reveals 'Skeletons in the Closet'

The recruitment of mafia men to plan the assassination of Fidel Castro, the wiretapping and surveillance of journalists who reported on classified material, and the two-year confinement in the United States of a KGB defector -- those are just a few of the past CIA activities revealed in documents released Tuesday.

Known as the "family jewels," the 702 pages of documents detail acts committed between March 1959 and the early 1970s that raise questions about the legality of some of the CIA's activities. Initially compiled for Congress in 1973, the documents helped spur sweeping agency reforms.

'Outside the CIA's Charter'

In 1973 CIA director James Schlesinger sent a memo to all agency employees, directing them to report on "all activities undertaken that may have fallen outside the CIA's charter."

The files were released voluntarily by the CIA, albeit after numerous Freedom of Information Act requests. In announcing the release, current CIA Director Michael Hayden said last week that the documents "provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency."

"Much of it has been in the press before, and most of it is unflattering, but it is the CIA's history," Hayden said.

Castro Assassination Plans

The documents trace the steps in an apparent failed plot to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

According to the files, Robert Maheu, a former FBI agent, was contacted, briefed on the mission and asked "if he could develop an entree into the gangster elements as a first step towards accomplishing the desired goal."

Maheu was asked to approach an acquaintance, Johnny Roselli, who was thought to be part of the "syndicate" that controlled all of the ice machines on the Las Vegas Strip. Maheu deduced Roselli's purported mob ties would include connections to Cuban gambling enterprises as well.

Maheu presented himself as an executive representing several clients who were losing money because of Castro's clampdown on the gambling industry, and therefore wanted the leader ousted from power.

Cosa Nostra Ties

Roselli was interested, and brought in an associate, Sam Gold. But Maheu discovered that Gold and a courier traveling between Miami and Havana known as Joe, also recruited for the mission, were leading double lives -- both men were on the attorney general's 10 most wanted list.

Gold was identified as Momo Salvatore Giancana, Chicago's Cosa Nostra boss -- the successor to Al Capone. Joe was determined to be Santos Trafficant, head of the organization's Cuban enterprises.

Giancana suggested poisoning as a murder method, and indicated that he had an assassin in mind: Juan Orta, a Cuban official with access to Castro who was receiving kickbacks from the gambling industry.

'Six Pills'

The CIA produced "six pills of high lethal content" to Trafficant, who delivered them to Orta.

But Orta, after he reported several failed attempts to administer the pills, "apparently got cold feet and asked out of the assignment." Orta nominated one of his contacts to carry out the mission, but that individual failed as well.

Trafficant suggested another contact: Dr. Anthony Verona of the Cuban Exile Junta, who was apparently dissatisfied with the junta's "ineffectual progress" and was "willing to handle the mission through his own resources."

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